The president of the Santa Clara County Deputy Sheriff’s Association has resigned following allegations that he sent racist and sexist text messages to other law enforcement officials over the last several years.
Don Morrissey announced his resignation in a letter to members of the union on Thursday (July 26). He said several police associations, including the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, have been embroiled in issues of bias, racism and harassment in recent months, but their leaders need to be held accountable.
“That accountability must start with me,” Morrissey said in the statement, adding that he hoped the Santa Clara County sheriff’s office would continue pushing to end harassment and discrimination.
Morrissey said “shameful conduct at our jail” also prompted him to make way for new leadership, referring to three correctional officers who were convicted of second-degree murder in the death of an inmate at Santa Clara County jail in 2015. The county medical examiner ruled Michael Tyree’s death a homicide by blunt force trauma.
Responding to Morrissey’s statement, Sheriff Laurie Smith said his words only served to “distort and distract from his complicity with racist, homophobic, and sexually assaultive text messages.”
She called his allegations of institutional bias “reckless and unfounded,” and said his attempts to regain the trust of the community on behalf of the department was unbelievable, considering he had engaged in the misconduct that broke their trust.
“Give me a break — the public is a hell of a lot smarter than Mr. Morrissey gives them credit for and they will see right through his latest smoke screen,” Smith said in the statement.
Vice President Roger Winslow will take over Morrissey’s position until an election for a new president later this year. Morrissey is still serving as a deputy in the department after being disciplined for sending the text messages, according to Winslow.
“While the process of transitioning to new leadership is just beginning, it will be guided by a steadfast commitment to the safety and security of our members, accountability across our department, and responsive engagement with the diverse community we are privileged to serve,” Winslow said in a statement.
The local NAACP President Jethroe Moore II demanded on Wednesday (July 25) that Morrissey be fired, calling him “unfit” for the job.
“Removing Mr. Morrissey from his leadership role is the only way to begin the process of rehabilitating both the DSA’s reputation and the relationship between members of law enforcement and the community,” Moore said in a statement.
— Bay City News